As we make the move from summer back to school, it can be tricky to understand how we got the child with a specific misbehaviour. It’s as if this behaviour was handed to the infant just prior to the stork gathering up the bundle and dropping it in the cabbage patch for us to discover.
‘My child just won’t remember her lunch.’
‘My son will not practise the piano.’
‘I’m not sure how I got the kid who doesn’t do homework.’
Temperament plays a factor in every human. Statistically, one in four children will be a pleaser, two in four will go along with some motivation and the last one will fight things tooth and nail. If you happened to be blessed with a child in the latter category, it is going to take a great deal more structure and consistency to get through to that one. That’s what we call parenting.
At Parenting Power, we believe that kids are capable. Capable of meeting our expectations and of learning from their parents.
If parents declare the fact, ‘My daughter always forgets her lunch,’ they are correct. She will believe them. She will live that declaration passionately.
Parenting is about taking responsibility to expect our kids to be capable of learning and to encourage them with words and actions that say, ‘I know you can do this. I know you can learn and I’m here to teach you.’
For many kids, it is not until we expect them to practice piano, take responsibility for their stuff and/or do homework that it will happen. Then, we need to work with our kids to develop a plan for that to happen. If your child knows that all they have to do is create a big fuss about doing homework, or ignore it and put up with your ranting in order to get out of it, you have taught them well. You need to take the time to teach the right way for homework to happen (or clean up, or piano, or dishes or whatever it is in your house.)
We can choose to play the role of victim and claim that we just got the kid who won’t clean up. Or we can take responsibility for the situation and make a plan to teach our child how to clean up—and what the expectations and the consequences are. How will we teach this task? What amount of time do we need to work on this with our child? How do we schedule that?
This is real life parenting: communicating clearly, acknowledging feelings and using language that encourages our kids to do what needs to happen in real life. They don’t have to like loading and unloading the dishwasher. They need to know that complaining about it won’t make the task go away. Doing the task is what makes it go away…until tomorrow.
Need some help? We’re here.
Excuses are part of our culture’s vocabulary.
‘It’ll take too long.”’
‘That’s just the way my kid is…’
‘I don’t have the energy.’
But are they really true? Excuses can become such a part of our daily lives that they become beliefs. Kids learn what they live. If you are using excuses, your kids are too.
Where do the excuses come from?
In his children’s book, No Excuses!: How What You Say Can Get In Your Way Wayne Dyer says, ‘People make excuses for all kinds of things. Excuses give us a reason not to do things that seem hard or scary.’
Excuses come from one place: FEAR.
1. The FEAR of having to CHANGE—if we use an excuse, we can maintain the status quo. We can stay in the discomfort we already know rather than jumping into new, potential discomfort.
2. The FEAR of ACCEPTING ourselves and our children for WHO WE REALLY ARE—we are not the perfect parent, nor the perfect spouse. Our kids aren’t the perfect children with the perfect friends and room, and grades. Those perfect people don’t exist here in real life.
What’s the payoff?
Excuses help us to shift blame, to give up on something that may seem tricky, to escape or avoid a lot of life and learning.
When we use excuses, we don’t have to admit that we don’t know what to do to make things better.
Example: Jenny is tired—that’s why she’s throwing this temper tantrum (If we would have had her in bed earlier, she would be better behaved). Mom and Dad don’t bother to discipline Jenny and don’t acknowledge that at 4 years old, she can learn to control her behaviour. (I’m sure she’ll behave better at the next restaurant) Of course, if they don’t teach her how to behave, nothing will change next time.
It is a perceived payoff—short term gain with long term pain.
When we create excuses and save our kids from their bad choices, we are not allowing them the opportunity to learn. They will continue to make the same bad choices.
When we make excuses for our kids, and fail to hold them accountable, we are teaching them that they can’t do any better and that they should make excuses for their behaviour instead of learning from it.
What can we do instead?
Hold your child (and yourself) accountable. When you hear an excuse, call it one and stay with it to help your child to own the situation. If the work didn’t get done, allow your child to learn from the consequences. If someone or something has been harmed, allow your child to make amends:
1. Own the behaviour
2. Make it right with the person that was harmed
3. Fix the problem
4. Know what to do so that this doesn’t happen again in the future.